First call: PM Modi, Starmer agree to speed up FTA talks, strengthen ties | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi spoke to his new UK counterpart Keir Starmer, a day after his election, with the two heads agreeing to work towards early conclusion of a “mutually beneficial” free trade agreement (FTA) that has been in the works for several years.
“Both leaders recalled the historic relations between the two countries and reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen and advance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and the UK,” an official statement said.
Along with the trade agreement, the two leaders discussed other areas of cooperation. “Discussing the importance of the living bridge between the UK and India, and the 2030 roadmap, the leaders agreed there was a wide range of areas across defence and security, critical and emerging technology, and climate change, for the two countries to deepen cooperation on,” a statement by the UK PMO said after the call.
The discussions are expected to help resume talks for an FTA over the next few weeks with 14 rounds of negotiations having already been concluded. The Labour Party’s emphatic victory in the UK elections is expected to result in some tweaks in the negotiating position especially on the issue of business visas and there are expectations of a demand for steeper reduction in import duty on Scotch, something that the Indian govt has been negotiating hard.
“Discussing the FTA, PM (Starmer) said he stood ready to conclude a deal that worked for both sides,” said a statement from 10 Downing Street. Starmer also noted the contribution made by the Indian community across the fields and the “two sides agreed to closer people-to-people ties”.
“The (UK) PM said he looked forward to further deepening the strong and respectful relationship between both countries and welcomed PM Modi’s leadership on key global challenges, such as climate change and economic growth,” the UK statement said.
Modi also extended an invitation to Starmer for an early visit to India, with both leaders saying that they hoped to meet at the earliest opportunity.
On his second day in office, apart from Modi, Starmer had calls with his Australian and Japanese counterparts, having had similar interactions with US President Joe Biden, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Ireland’s Taoiseach Harris on Friday.

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